NASHVILLE (BP) – Mark Richt, former college football coach who now serves as national spokesperson for Send Relief, discussed his newly released book Tuesday (Aug. 31) during a virtual Q & A with Todd Unzicker, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Richt began serving as a national spokesperson for Send Relief in early 2020, after retiring from coaching. His book, Making the Call: Game-Day Wisdom for Life’s Defining Moments, deals with the challenge of making wise decisions on and off the field and draws on his experience as head coach of the University of Georgia and University of Miami football teams.
“It’s as real as I can make it,” Richt said. “The name of the book itself is a play on words. As a coach you make a lot of calls in a game, but making calls is really making decisions, and we all have decisions to make. In this book I talk about football decisions, I talk about family decisions, I talk about faith decisions, and I’m really wanting to challenge the readers to make the call themselves on truly the most important call they can make in their lives.”
The call Richt is referring to is the call to follow Jesus, which he said he made when he was working as a graduate assistant coach at Florida State University under head coach Bobby Bowden.
“I went knocking on his door [after Bowden had shared the Gospel during a team meeting], and I said ‘Coach, I need Jesus’. I’m know where I’m headed if I died today, and it’s not a good place,’” Richt said.
“I prayed to receive Christ right there in his office, and my life has never been the same. I owe him a lot of temporal things in this earth, but I also owe him my eternal salvation because he was bold enough to spread the Gospel to the team.”
Bowden, who died in early August at age 91, was the second-winningest coach in college football history.
Richt discussed Bowden’s influence on his coaching style and in the way he cares for his players beyond the football field.
“I loved Coach Bowden just like everybody else did,” Richt said. “Coach was a special breed of man and coach. When most football coaches motivate, they do it through a little bit of fear and intimidation. Coach Bowden’s style wasn’t that way. He motivated through compassion and love, and he always wanted to capture the heart of the player.”
The ministry and legacy of Bowden lived on through Richt as he entered his coaching career. Richt’s strong faith caught the eye of a young sports reporter in Georgia named Todd Unzicker.
Through Richt’s influence, Unzicker would ultimately become a Christian and then immediately give up his job as a sports reporter to pursue missions work. He would go on to become the chief of staff at The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., before becoming the state convention’s executive director/treasurer in May.
Beyond talking about his Richt’s book, the two men answered submitted questions from attendees and discussed the upcoming college football season.
Richt also made mention of his recent diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease, saying he is thankful his hope isn’t in what is earthly, but beyond to what is eternal.
“I said when I made it public that I look at this as a momentary light affliction compared to the glory that God promised us in heaven,” Richt said. “We get this glorified body with no sin and no disease to match our spirit and soul. There’s not a lot of hope if all you have is what’s on this earth, but if you have your hope in Jesus, heaven and eternity, that’s what I lay my hope on.”
A link to the full Q & A can be found here.